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Zinke announces plan for massive reorganization of Interior Dept.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeHUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy Overnight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Interior Department sued over withholding details on trophy permits, endangered species MORE is launching a massive overhaul of the department that would move tens of thousands of government employees to new locations across the country and reorganize the management of federal lands.

“We’re looking at reshaping our current bureau-based regional system of management and moving to a system based on ecosystems, watersheds and science, rather than the current state or regional boundaries,” Zinke said in a video message for the department’s 70,000 workers, released publicly Thursday.

“This concept will allow Interior and our participating agencies to address concerns using a system-level approach to better manage important resources, such as watersheds, trail systems, infrastructure requirements, recreational access and wildlife corridors.”

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Zinke expanded on the concept in an interview with The Washington Post. 

“If you look at the way we’re presently organized, all the bureaus under Interior have different regions ... and are not aligned geographically,” he told the newspaper.

Zinke's plan would divvy up the U.S. into 13 regions based on geographic basins and watersheds, with different parts of the Interior Department located within those boundaries.

He said that the 13 regions are needed to help the federal government better manage lands, according to The Post.

Because moving so many Interior Department employees would require congressional approval, Zinke said the agency plans to negotiate the reorganization with lawmakers in the upcoming budget approval.

"We want the reorganization to be bipartisan," he told The Post. "There will be a lot of my time spent on the Hill, talking to ranking members and chairmen. In the Senate, the appropriations committee was briefed last year on what the beginning of the reorganization will look like."

Zinke consulted with 150 senior executive service staffers this week on the reorganization. Those staffers were charged with coming up with ways to streamline the Interior Department's agencies and identifying new cities that department employees could be based in.

- This report was updated on Jan. 11 at 10 a.m.